I’ve just finished plate three of the Bargue drawings, and I’m realising that there’s more to this than meets the eye – mainly because I steamed straight in without actually finding out how to copy the Bargue plates first.
The difficulties I’ve had with them have come down largely to two things, bad technique and bad prints.
Bargue Drawings Copying Technique
Finally, half way through plate three, I though it would be a good idea to read the book and find out if I was copying the drawings correctly.
Most of the drawings in the book have one or two schematic drawings next to the finished version, intended to show you how to break down the drawing into its main building block shapes, which you can then refine down to get the finished drawing.
I’ve been merrily copying the schematics as well as the finished drawings. Of course that just means that I’ve done more practice than I really needed to, and that’s a good thing really. It’s not how quickly I get through the plates that counts, it’s how much I learn from them.
I was copying the drawings mostly standing at the easel, judging distances by eye, where the book recommends the sight-size method, standing back and measuring with a plumb line. This is the atelier method of studying from casts. Also I wasn’t using construction lines, except where I really felt I had no choice. When I did I thought I was cheating, but in fact you’re supposed to use the construction lines supplied in the schematic. It makes life a bit easier at least!
Here’s a brief run down of the technique the book recommends, step by step:
- Tape up the drawing and your paper side by side, on a vertical drawing board at about head height. You’ll be drawing standing up.
- Tape up a plumb line so it hangs vertically down the middle of the drawing, in the same position on the drawing as the vertical construction line on the schematic. Now draw a corresponding vertical line down the middle of the paper.
- Stand back a given distance from the drawing, say six to ten feet. Mark where you’re standing with some tape on the floor. Always view the drawing and measure from this same point, viewing it from a different angle may distort the relationships between your measurements.
- Pick out the highest point on the original, and sight across the drawing to the plumb line. From that point, sight across to your paper and judge where the corresponding point would be on your vertical construction line. You can use another plumb line held horizontally for this. With your eye fixed on the spot on your paper where your mark is going to go, walk over and mark it.
- Go back to your viewing point, and see how close you are. Keep adjusting till it looks right.
- Once you’ve got the vertical measurement, unless the point is on the construction line, you need to get the horizontal measurement for it, i.e. how far away horizontally is it from the vertical construction line. Do this by holding your hand-held plumb line, a ruler, or whatever, horizontally, and judge the distance on the original between the point and the vertical construction line. As before, walk over and mark it on the drawing, adjust and correct as necessary, but only look at the drawing from your spot marked on the floor.
- Do the same with the lowest point on the drawing, and for the furthest left and furthest right points. Join the four points.
- Now you have the basic dimensions of the drawing. Don’t move on until you’re sure those points are right. Then you can start adding more points, describing the main shapes of the drawing. Use the schematic to pick out points to measure to.
- Carry on adding points and drawing the shapes outlined by them, gradually refining the drawing, working from larger shapes to smaller, until the outline is done.
- Adding tone would come next. I can’t say much about that yet since I’ve only just started doing it on plate three. Guaranteed it’s not going to be simple figuring out how though.
Enlarging the Plates
I think it’s important to copy the Bargue plates full size, the size they were meant to be copied. That’s somewhere in between A3 and A2. Even if you don’t want to copy the plates actual size, they’ll need to be set up on an easel if you’re going to copy them in the recommended manner. That still means copying and printing them.
So far I’ve had laser copies done, but when they are enlarged to full size, the quality suffers quite badly. Mostly in the areas of dark tone, the sensitivity isn’t there and you get a dark blob of one overall tone instead of the variegated tones on the original plate.
I’ve only just noticed this since I’ve just finished plate three and it’s the first one to include tone. After finishing the plate, (which took me a good thirty or so hours,) I looked at the plate in the book and again and realised that I’d lost a lot of detail on my laser copy. The problem with this is that I believe that this course is very carefully put together in a progression, especially at the start.
The book says you can do them in any order, but I disagree. Plate one was just schematics. Plate two added more finished outlines to the schematics. Plate three added tone to the line drawings, just the areas of the darkest shadows, no mid tones yet. Plate four adds mid tones, they are basically full tone drawings at this point. It’s an obvious progression. I have a strong feeling that if I don’t get each stage right I’ll be scuppered on the next one, so that’s why it bothers me that my reproductions are not good.
I need to find a way round this before I go any further. My plan at the moment is to take some digital shots of the plates, enlarge them to the correct size on the PC, then take them to the printers and see what the best quality they can do is. I suspect it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg to get a decent number of the plates done that way, but at least I’m working so slowly on them that the cost will be spread over a very, very long period.
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